Extra help hired to handle higher recycling volume

Koochiching County’s Environmental Services Department has hired a part-time worker at the solid waste and recycling facility in International Falls to handle the increase in recyclables coming over the border from Fort Frances.
Environment Services director Richard Lehtinen said yesterday afternoon that the new worker, who just started there yesterday, was hired for a 67-day period at the plant while the county determines how much more volume is coming from Fort Frances and, in turn, how much more labour is needed to handle that increase in volume.
“It’s been a pretty hefty increase,” said Lehtinen, referring to the amount of recyclables that came in last week, adding he’s feels a permanent, full-time position will be “absolutely necessary” if the volume increases any more.
Lehtinen also said he just got authorization from the Koochiching County board of commissioners yesterday to negotiate a contract with the Town of Fort Frances for continued recycling service (the town and Koochiching County only had an agreement for the past year and-a-half, and not a formal contract).
Lehtinen noted he’s held off on getting a contract in place until he was sure the solid waste and recycling plant could land more manpower.
“We’re hopeful we can come to an agreement. We like the relationship we have now,” he remarked. “The board is very supportive.
“The idea of working co-operatively with Fort Frances is great. And it’s something we should do more of in the future.”
Lehtinen said he’s spoken to Doug Brown, manager of Operations and Facilities for the Town of Fort Frances, who told him he’d like to wait and gather more data regarding the increased volume in recyclables before starting any negotiations.
“I want to get more numbers and data, and then we’ll sit down and make some decisions,” confirmed Brown.
But Brown made it clear he’d like to see town residents be able to recycle a greater variety of materials down the road (particularly box board and egg cartons), and that could be a factor in determining what direction the town takes in any future contracts with recycling partners.
Brown said since “bag tags” came into effect here May 31, the amount of recyclable material residents have been putting out in their “blue boxes” has increased by about 70 percent.
“They [Asselin Transportation] have never filled a recycling truck in one day,” Brown noted Monday, adding the contractor picking up “blue boxes” for the town reported they had one-and-a-half loads of recyclables the previous Monday (the day “bag tags” took effect).
As well, about 70 percent more paper products were put in “blue boxes” compared to the previous week while the amount of containers (both plastic and aluminum) jumped by 100 percent.
“It looks like things are going the way we wanted,” said Brown, adding he’ll have a better picture of just how much the volume of recyclables has increased after he collects data from a full week of “blue box” pickups.
“I know more people are going to recycle. I’ve seen it [in Marathon],” he remarked. “I know we are doing something good for the community, and I think people are seeing that now.”
< *c>‘Bag tag’ compliance
In related news, the town issued a total of 135 non-compliance notices to residents last week, telling them their garbage would not be picked up for one reason or another under the new waste management bylaw.
Of these, 112 were because the bags weren’t tagged while 16 were in improper containers. Another five exceeded the 40-pound weight limit while two were because residents had put out “non-collectible” waste.
“I think that number [135] is pretty reasonable,” said Brown, noting that amounted to about three percent of all those who received garbage pickup through the town that week.
“The complaints are part of the process. I think we’ll see fewer this week,” he added. “When people learn why their garbage wasn’t picked up, they probably won’t do it again.”
In fact, Brown noted yesterday that this past Monday’s garbage pickup saw far fewer non-compliance notices issued, and only two households were issued notices for a second week in a row.
These households will be contacted by the town’s bylaw enforcement department.